Fargo: The Castle
December 7, 2015 8:36 PM - Season 2, Episode 9 - Subscribe

Hanzee goes back to the Gerhardts. Things get interesting in Sioux Falls.
posted by komara (71 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Best lines of the episode, in my opinion:

Peggy Blomquist: "It's a flying saucer, hon. We gotta go."

Mike Milligan: "Okay then."
posted by komara at 8:38 PM on December 7, 2015 [22 favorites]


Weren't just we talking about what a Coen brothers movie directed by Wes Anderson would look like?

But that did not end like a Wes Anderson movie.


THAT DID NOT END LIKE A WES ANDERSON MOVIE.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:49 PM on December 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


That was beyond amazing. I was almost certain that they'd hold off on the showdown for next episode, but man... goddamn.
posted by codacorolla at 8:50 PM on December 7, 2015


They sure went out of their way to make the cops so unlikeable that you kind of hoped they'd get shot.

Did we get tipped-off a little to next season's story when the cop guarding Ed and Peggy said "It's...all over again." I missed what town he mentioned, though.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:02 PM on December 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Martin Freeman voiceover? That sounded like him.
posted by Catblack at 9:40 PM on December 7, 2015 [7 favorites]


nobody here knows me, my tastes, or my thoughts, which makes this a more or less superfluous comment but i have to say: i think fargo might be my favorite television show of all time. mad men had it previously, with it's seven seasons of exquisite character development, but fargo is willing to play fast and loose with it's style and tone in a way that majorly appeals to me. it feels like a TV show out of the future, when the "golden age of TV" has stretched out a little beyond character studies of depraved men. we should be watching five years from now, but it's here in front of us today and it's amazing. i was the guy who wanted true detective S1 to go all out lovecraft in it's final episodes, and while that never happened, this show is making that dream a sort of reality.

the v/o was 100% martin freeman and i hope he returns next season in whatever fashion the show finds appropriate.
posted by JimBennett at 9:43 PM on December 7, 2015 [13 favorites]


One niggling point: why would a police officer insist on escorting another officer out of state instead of/before investigating the DEAD BODY inside?
posted by transient at 9:46 PM on December 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


I enjoyed the small touches, like the recurring conversation among the local cops of weird places they like to pee.
posted by The Gooch at 10:29 PM on December 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wow; what an episode.

"It's...all over again." I missed what town he mentioned, though.

Rapid City, according to Sepinwall's review.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:28 PM on December 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Something professional. I'm tired of this life."

This episode and the last - stellar in an already strong season. We found out the fate of Peggy's colleague at the conference.

Mike Milligan at seeing the massacre - 'well, okay.' - understated as always.

One niggling point: why would a police officer insist on escorting another officer out of state instead of/before investigating the DEAD BODY inside?

I thought that was showing the Dakota police's pride and ineptitude: that they would prioritize moving chess pieces in some sort of one-upmanship game over actual policing, no matter now urgent. (Also: their stupidity.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 11:34 PM on December 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


(Oh yes that was Martin Freeman, I'm sure of it. Nice callback and totally unexpected narration device used in this episode.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 11:35 PM on December 7, 2015


Don't click if you don't want to know, but they've revealed the Season 3 time period.
posted by yellowbinder at 11:40 PM on December 7, 2015


This EW interview with Noah Hawley confirms: yes, it was Martin Freeman.
An executive from MGM came to take us all to lunch before the season and they said, “Can you tell us anything about this season?” and I said, “Yeah, we’re going to make three fictional Ronald Reagan movies and there’s a UFO.” There was a long beat and they said, “So can you tell us anything about this season?”
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:51 PM on December 7, 2015 [6 favorites]


why would a police officer insist on escorting another officer out of state instead of/before investigating the DEAD BODY inside?

I think with that police captain (Jeb Cheney, according to this review) you quickly learn to follow orders instead of doing your job.
posted by Gary at 1:36 AM on December 8, 2015


I had to go back and check, but it looked like the cop from North Dakota(?) only got shot in the shoulder. I'm going to believe he makes it out alive because he's stuck in the same situation as Hank. He doesn't need to be there but thinks some better cops should be involved.
posted by Gary at 1:42 AM on December 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wow, good TV. I've been binge-watching this season and this is the first time I've had to wait for the next episode... It's going to be a long wait. I didn't like Season 1 this much and now I'm thinking I was insane and I should give it another chance.

I felt like Ed and Peggy got away clean there, except that All-Knowing Martin Freeman said that Hanzee's mission was to find them. So I assume Peggy will stroke him gently like a rabbit and then kill him next week... Because if anyone is the "unstoppable force of chaos and pure evil" this season it's her.

"It's just a flying saucer, hon. We gotta go."

I absolutely love that they WENT THERE with the UFO thing. I was hoping for it. After all this is not a show that is well-grounded in reality. Let's have fun with it.
posted by mmoncur at 2:20 AM on December 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


The officers were having a literal pissing contest.
posted by moons in june at 2:24 AM on December 8, 2015 [13 favorites]


I loved the illustrations in “The History of True Crime in the Mid West." Are you listening Santa?
posted by Marky at 2:25 AM on December 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


Favorite subtle moment. Quoting EW's James Hibberd:

One of my favorite things in the episode was when Floyd (Jean Smart) was talking on the phone to Hanzee and you see on the wall next to her all the height progress marks of her kids.

...and as Hanzee is betraying her and inviting her to her death, if you look closely you can see that Hanzee's name is not included on the wall. He's realized what they knew all along: He was never part of the family.
posted by mmoncur at 2:33 AM on December 8, 2015 [14 favorites]


Spectacular episode. This is just like Rapid City all over again was a direct reference to the mention of Sioux Falls in the first season. I am gobsmacked at how good this is. One more episode to go and then I'm going to have to wait for at least a year before I can binge watch the whole season again in a glory of late 70's bloodshed.

Has anyone been keeping count of exactly how many people have been killed so far? Good thing guns are keeping everyone safe!
posted by h00py at 4:11 AM on December 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


The entire series I was kind of worried about the UFO stuff, that there would eventually be something big, and I was dreading it thinking it would ruin the series. And then it happened and it was awesome and Peggy's line was the greatest line ever.
posted by bondcliff at 10:09 AM on December 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


One niggling point: why would a police officer insist on escorting another officer out of state instead of/before investigating the DEAD BODY inside?

Maybe South Dakota is controlled by another family?

Or maybe they were being completely honest? They were total dicks about it, but maybe they really were experienced enough to understand that such a situation was no place for an out-of-state greenhorn, and were knowingly saving his life by escorting him the hell out of dodge?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:26 AM on December 8, 2015


I've said most of what I wanted to say elsewhere, so just one thing to leave here...

I have a bad feeling about Noreen. Molly was in the bedroom with her, then Molly went out and found her mother collapsed. She made her way back to the bedroom and Noreen wasn't there. We know she has talked about suicide, but could she possibly do it with a child right there? And if so, this will be doubly traumatic for Molly.
posted by 2ht at 10:51 AM on December 8, 2015


"... and Noreen wasn't there"

I didn't interpret this scene anything like what you did. If I'm not mistaken the entire thing was devoid of environment sound effects, like no sound of Betsy hitting the floor, no sound of the glass breaking, no dialogue - the only sound was the musical score (if even that). I believe the intention was to distance the viewer from the events: this isn't something unfolding in real time, but does pass on knowledge that the viewers need, even if it's in shorthand.

Again, this is just how I took it, but:
- Betsy's fine
- Betsy doesn't look so good
- Molly and Noreen are fine and normal in the bedroom
- Molly investigates
- Betsy is ill
- Molly returns to get Noreen
and these have been silent and short snapshots, not something shown to us in real-time. We don't get every one of Molly's footsteps down the hall, but instead just enough of her walking to know that she's walking.

From there, they speed up the pace of the information. Bedroom is empty. Everyone left. Happy normal times are over. Shot of the floor to show that Betsy isn't there. Someone's taking care of things. Doesn't matter who, or they would have showed us. Point is: Betsy collapsed, was found, was taken away, house is now empty. All conveyed in probably less than 30 seconds of screen time, no unnecessary dialogue. It is just A Thing That Happened, something to keep in the back of our minds as we worry about Lou out there, and how this info would distract him if he knew it. Betsy's down, and he was down too. He got up. Did she? Will she?

Anyway, don't worry about Noreen is what I'm sayin'. She was just in the scene so that Molly would have an adult to report to.
posted by komara at 12:28 PM on December 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


Oh, I heard glass breaking pretty clearly while the kids were in the room. I didn't get that vibe re Noreen either, figured they'd just taken off to an ER--as in, Noreen drove, or called an ambulance. Small town, wouldn't take too long to show up.
posted by raysmj at 1:33 PM on December 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I don't think they'd do the suicide thing. First of all, I don't think it's in character (she talks about death and thinks it's "kind of beautiful" but she does not seem depressed. And she's maybe found a purpose helping out Betsy.)

Second, this is Fargo and they generally don't kill people unless it means something. If she was going to commit suicide it would be the end of a tragic story. Instead she doesn't really have her own story (much) so I think komara's right and she mainly exists to have someone at Lou's house while things are happening with Betsy...
posted by mmoncur at 2:52 PM on December 8, 2015


"If I'm not mistaken the entire thing was devoid of environment sound effects [...] no sound of the glass breaking"

"Oh, I heard glass breaking pretty clearly"

I was mistaken.
posted by komara at 3:12 PM on December 8, 2015


*Sees UFO sticker in store* 'Oh cool, there's the UFO ref for this ep!'



Oh jeez
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:15 PM on December 8, 2015 [17 favorites]


I'm totally gonna go back and read all the text from that book on freeze frame, only reason I've not done so already is possibility it's spoilering
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:16 PM on December 8, 2015


And yeah this is definitely up there in best tv ever territory; it's not the same thing as The Wire, but's in the same ball park
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:18 PM on December 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


I had a couple of stray thoughts as things are starting to wrap up:

> Mike and Hanzee are very similar characters. Mike is black in a predominately White / Italian organization, and it seems like he's working hard to prove himself against a lot of baked-in racism. Hanzee has been more developed in terms of his relationship with the Gerhart family, but clearly they don't think of him as an equal, what with Dodd calling him a mongrel even as he's come there to save his life. I feel like at least part of the point of comparison between the two comes down to the mom-n-pop nature of the Gerhart, and the big business nature of the KC mob. Will Mike ever have a moment where he breaks, like Hanzee did? Or is Mike a company man through and through?

> What would the purpose of the aliens be? I don't think we're ever supposed to know for sure (what with Peggy's little line to Ed), but the way it spotlighted the motel shootout makes me think that it's a standin for audience attention, or the directorial eye. What if they're not researchers or explorers or invaders (as is often the case in UFO fiction), but just gawkers? Rubberneckers?

> My favorite split screen moment of the whole show happened in this episode. Mike is getting off the phone with his boss in KC, and in the left part of the screen there's a wide shot of him nonchalantly whistling with a spring in his step back to the remaining Kitchen brother, but there's an earlier scene that takes up just a third of the screen, where he has a distraught look on his face, wondering if he's done the right thing. That's a great way of showing conflict being masked over by bravado without having the character say anything, and without a bunch of different cuts. Really, really great.
posted by codacorolla at 3:19 PM on December 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


The history book, the narration, and the UFO were all incredibly stupid choices. That was some straight-up Crystal Skull bullshit.

Everything else was excellent.
posted by robcorr at 4:34 PM on December 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


I have to agree, sadly. The whole book/narration/clipshow thing just seemed like there was a lot of running time to pad out.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:45 PM on December 8, 2015


"Mike is black in a predominately White / Italian organization, and it seems like he's working hard to prove himself against a lot of baked-in racism."

At least once an episode I'm reminded of Andre Williams' incredible song Only Black Man in South Dakota.
posted by komara at 5:00 PM on December 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


One thing I noticed was that as soon as the shooting started again (Hanzee chasing Ed and Peggy), the UFO's lights went dark and it disappeared. That, along with the spotlights, made me think it was some sort of narrative device. I think? I honestly don't know. I bet Hank knows, what with his symbols. (Will we ever know?) Gah.

I agree, I think the split scene with Mike and the telephone booth was spectacular.

My only issue with this episode (I was wary of the voiceover narration at first, but I thought it was done well) is that the dialogue with the idiot cops seemed downright hokey.

Ted Danson and Kirsten Dunst, man. Give them both all the Emmys.

Also of note - this episode was directed by the Kansas City chief himself, Adam Arkin.
posted by flyingsquirrel at 6:04 PM on December 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Also of note - this episode was directed by the Kansas City chief himself, Adam Arkin.

Well then no wonder there was a UFO. In one stroke he proves that both the Gerhardts and the police are a bit touched and that KC is the only rational organization. Welcome to the 80s!
posted by dness2 at 6:15 PM on December 8, 2015


"It's just a flying saucer, hon. We gotta go."

That moment reminded me of another performance by Kirsten Dunst. In Melancholia the world is coming to an end and her character's mental illness allows her accept the situation when no one else can.
posted by cazoo at 6:48 PM on December 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


I love this show, though I get lost with all the factions and gangs and men.

But I'll watch ANYTHING with Kirsten Dunst in it, I adore her and think she's one of the most underrated actresses of my generation.

A friend and I were chatting a few years ago about how Kirsten Dunst needs to do a TV show, so she can really sit with a character, since she brings these people to life so well, with a mix of biting wit and fragility to almost every one of them. The concept we basically came up with was a 1970s Midwestern setting where she'd play a wife and revive her Drop Dead Gorgeous Minnesota accent.

And then bam! Fargo was announced. I told my friend - um, our show is on.
posted by sweetkid at 6:57 PM on December 8, 2015 [8 favorites]


I SAID BRRRR, IT'S COLD IN HERE

THERE MUST BE SOME SAUCERS IN THE ATMOSPHERE
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:13 PM on December 8, 2015 [8 favorites]


Wayne Duvall (Klan member Homer Stokes from O Brother) as Captain Jeb Cheney. Perfect.
posted by soplerfo at 7:17 PM on December 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


The narrator sounded British to me, almost like the voice of the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy BBC Television version.

As I said back in the episode 3 thread, I watched all of Season 1 but half way through my interest waned. I found it very boring, with absolutely no surprises but at the same time recognized the great character work that was going on. Somehow that wasn't enough for me and so when this season began I didn't even bother to pay attention until someone said I really should.

This season is masterpiece of the post Breaking Bad live graphic novel fantastic stories and characters genre. This series has much of what the Wire has in the sense of story or plot with a lot of great characters. You learn so much about many of the characters in the small moments that the plot blends them in as well as the larger moments. The actors must have loved doing this series.
posted by juiceCake at 7:32 PM on December 8, 2015


The narrator sounded British to me, almost like the voice of the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy BBC Television version.

You're close: It's Arthur Dent from the movie.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:39 PM on December 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


The history book, the narration, and the UFO were all incredibly stupid choices. That was some straight-up Crystal Skull bullshit.

Usually I'd be the first to agree, I absolutely hate when shows cross genres. It's like if a ghost showed up as a significant character in season 2 of Breaking Bad or something. I would have been very angry.

But somehow this show created a world in which I'm only mildly surprised when a UFO shows up.

I know multiple characters saw it, but one way I like to imagine it -- to make the story more realistic -- is to imagine that the whole thing is told from Peggy Blomquist's point of view. She sees things differently ("a little bit touched" as Hank said) and to her, sometimes UFOs just show up and buzz around for a minute, and that's fine because she's fully realized and all.

Oh, as for the narration: Granted, I love Martin Freeman and any excuse to include him, but I liked how it worked with the pacing of this episode. There were several VERY intense scenes and the narration gave us a chance to breathe in between. The UFO kind of did the same thing.
posted by mmoncur at 8:31 PM on December 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


The narrative voice sounded very "70s tv show" to me.
posted by sweetkid at 8:36 PM on December 8, 2015


I would have been annoyed if the UFO actually mattered. I guess it did distract Bear, but he could have been distracted by anything. It's similar to the fish storm in season one. I would have preferred not to have it, but I may also be missing something thematic about it.
posted by Gary at 8:41 PM on December 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


If it makes anyone feel better, there were widely-circulated rumors in the 1960s and 1970s that the US Government was secretly building and testing flying saucers.

Oh, and the rumors were almost true.
posted by mmoncur at 8:48 PM on December 8, 2015


I thought the narration was there to lend a "we're telling the legend" feel. Where that came from, I'd like to know. Wasn't totally down with the UFO, though, until it came to Peggy seeing it as just a tiny distraction to taking care of business, then I cackled. How could you not? Just let it all wash over you, was my take. Do you really think that one guy could have killed as many people as he already had a day before, without having international camera crews all around? TV folks could get around in the late '70s, even before the soon-dawning age of 24-hour cable news. Newspapers and wire services were still a big thing too, and were well on into the early '90s, so reporters and photographers would've been around, from all over.
posted by raysmj at 9:33 PM on December 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


As much for my future reference as for anyone else: 20.

The owner of my cigar shop, who watched the episode yesterday, said he didn't count the number of people dead. As a favor to him, I counted. Looks like 20 killed on camera. Probably another couple cops and 3-5 Gerhardt flunkies that died offscreen, and at least 1 of those 20 was a cop in the poker group who might've survived his shoulder-shot.
posted by Sunburnt at 11:53 PM on December 8, 2015


When the UFO first appeared I assumed it was Bear hallucinating after being shot in the head, but then others saw it so that was that theory out of the window.

There was so much going on in the ep that it was only later I remembered that the Betsy finding Hanks symbols has not been resolved... and given what's now happened, will it ever be resolved?
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:05 AM on December 9, 2015


If they go all out on the Alien thing maybe it will turn out that Hank summoned them to help somehow, and the cops who did the cleanup at the hotel will tell Lou that they saw some mysterious lights and never found Hank...

Well, I can dream anyway. I just want Hank to get a happy ending, and if he was the only True Believer it's a shame he is the only one who didn't see the UFO.
posted by mmoncur at 3:08 AM on December 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


My husband's in the US for work right now and the time difference is just annoying enough that we don't worry too much about trying to chat. We just message each other when we have a chance. I just got this series of messages:
Thunder and lightning!
But no alien spacecraft hon.
Actualised.
I'm assuming he'll be coming home in one piece and won't have developed a midwest accent in the meantime...
posted by tracicle at 6:33 AM on December 9, 2015 [8 favorites]


My understanding of this season is that it is, in an important way, about the inexplicable and how we attempt to deal with it. This is a season about forces out of our control, beyond our reckoning, larger than us. It is about how our lives are shaped by things we do not determine, how we are swept up by the sea surrounding us, and about how we struggle to understand which way the tide is taking us. Some of the large forces at play this season:

--Family, family relationships. Connections to others that you are born into.

--Organized crime syndicates. Those that exist, just below the surface of decent society, and those from outside places that can come in like a storm whether you expect them or not.

--Racism, oppression. The way that a man can be judged and mocked for the color of his skin / the length of his hair, and nothing he can say or do can change it.

--Geopolitical economics. There's a gas shortage, because of things happening thousands of miles away, because of things people we'll never meet are doing.

--Coincidence. Something as thoughtless as driving on a certain path so that you hit a pedestrian standing in the middle of the road for reasons you couldn't have foreseen can radically alter the whole rest of your life. A bullet can ricochet around a room, missing its intended target and hitting the person you least wanted it to.

--Cancer. Our own bodies, the very internal forces that make us who and what we are, can be maligned, restructured to work against us, to kill us.

--War. There are two types of people in this season: those who are familiar with war and those who aren't.

Every character is lost in a sea that is made out of these large forces. The structure of their lives are shaped by these things, and each character can only just barely see the edges of them. They can't make sense of them. The world they are in is shaped inexplicably. They will never be able to make sense of it all. They will never have all of the information relevant; they cannot have access to what they need to understand. And so they struggle and they grieve and they suffer.

I understand the flying saucer to be a manifestation of all of this. It shows up, unnervingly and unapologetically inexplicable. The characters can only stare, mouths agape, as this thing arrives and then leaves by its own logic, not theirs. A flying saucer appears, and Rye is left agog, and he dies because of it. A flying saucer appears, and everyone stops their silly little war for just long enough for Bear to die because of it. (Notice, during the shoot out, which characters are able to ignore the UFO and continue with their plans despite its in-your-face inexplicability? Peggy, who is actualized, and Hanzee, who it seems has been battered into accepting how the forces of the world have structured his life.)

Think of how weird it is to write a story in which a character dies of cancer. Not a main character--just a side character. She's there, and she is dying. "Why is she dying of cancer?" we might ask the storyteller. That's something we feel should have an explanation: in a narrative, there is a point, a purpose even to something like a cancerous tumor. But, really, the question is ridiculous: the only reason people die of cancer is that they get cancer. Why is she dying of cancer? Why did Otto have a stroke? Why did one of the Kitchen Brothers survive while the other didn't? Why did the butcher shop burn down? Shit, those questions are no different from: Why are there UFOs?

It is with this perspective that I think about the opening conceit of this episode. The Wes Anderson comparison struck me too: the shots of the book are just so, so orderly. Precise. Clear and symmetrical. Everything fits on the screen the way we expect it to; everything looks the way we expect a picture to look. And we are given the events of the story as a narrative, written after the fact. Someone has poured through all the data available months (years?) after all of this occurred, and then have found order in the confusion. They have made sense of it. That is what a narrative is: it is the representation of order, of a comprehensible structuring of events. Those outsized, inexplicable forces are reduced to a clear, understandable history. A narrative takes the chaos and confusion of the lived experience and makes it understandable. A narrative is what makes life open to meaningful interpretation, understanding. The book, then, represents the extremely human urge (need? unquenchable drive?) to comprehend. It represents how each character is struggling to make sense of all of that they cannot understand. It represents how a man, struggling through the pain and horror of his wife dying from cancer, can turn to a politician and ask for an explanation of it, an account of how it makes sense. The book, which framed this episode, represents how we cannot help but ask questions like, "Why does she have cancer?" or "Why is there a UFO?" and expect an answer.

The drive for narrative structures this season, I think, just as much as the inexplicable forces. The season opens with the production of a narrative--a movie scene, waiting for the action to unfold. But it's an empty scene--the story being told can't unfold until the primary actor arrives, and he's not ready yet. We have a neat and tidy little story to tell about manifest destiny and the rise of civilization in North America, if only we could get the hero on stage. Also think of the significance of Ronald Reagan in general: he rose to power by telling us a story that made everything seem okay. But he's just a storyteller--note how vacuous and unhelpful his ability to narrate ultimately is for Lou.

I'm reminded of something I saw not too long ago on the Blue. It was about The Umbrella Man, who can be seen in footage of JFK's assassination. The point was, looking at the footage of the assassination, it seems immediately significant that this one man (out of so many!) is holding an open umbrella. Conspiracy theories developed around this man: countless people couldn't help but develop narratives about JFK's assassination that worked to make this strange, weird fact that one man was holding an umbrella make sense. But researchers actually tracked down this man, and the real reason was so weird and silly no one could ever think it up: he was holding the umbrella as a way of protesting some particular policy of JFK's administration. The point of this story is that real life is weird and strange, and no story can ever fit in all the weirdness and strangeness of real life. Whenever you attempt to provide a history, there will be loose ends, questions that can't be answered. The narrative is a superficial comprehension, because the real facts of the matter are never fully available to us for us to comprehend them.

This is my attempt, then, to make sense of and justify the inclusion of the UFO and the book narration in this episode. They represent different elements of the lives we live: the UFO represents the underlying incomprehensibility, the fact that a full account and understanding of life will always be beyond our grasp; the book and explicit narration represent how desperately we attempt to develop such understandings anyway, how we have no option but to attempt to construct comprehensible narratives, to cling to them as if lifesavers. It is almost as if we were, say, constantly struggling to push a boulder up a hill, only to ultimately recognize that we can never actually get it to stay at the top: as much as a true accounting of life, a full understanding of it, is beyond our grasp, we still desperately reach out for it.
posted by meese at 9:57 AM on December 9, 2015 [39 favorites]


It's interesting rewatching the shootout that it all goes normally filming-wise until there's a few freeze frames when Hanzee shoots people and then the voice over narration kicks back in speculating on his motives... and then the UFO appears. Kinda like another narrative device.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:16 PM on December 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Everything meese just said pretty much sums up A Serious Man, too.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:17 PM on December 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Damn it, SysRq, you beat me to it. If there's any grand Coen reference this season it's Embrace the Mystery.

voice: "Yes, that's why you received the monthly visitation."

Solverson: "I didn't ask for Santana Abraxas UFOs."

voice: "You request the visitation at the retail price by doing nothing."

Solverson: "I didn't ask for Santana Abraxas UFOs,

voice: "Well, you had 14 days to listen to Santana Abraxas interface with the UFOs. Sir? - Look ..."

Solverson: "I didn't ask for Santana Abraxas UFOs, I didn't listen to Santana Abraxas UFOs ... I didn't do anything!"
posted by komara at 2:55 PM on December 9, 2015


Thanks meese for the excellent analysis:

That is what a narrative is: it is the representation of order, of a comprehensible structuring of events. Those outsized, inexplicable forces are reduced to a clear, understandable history. A narrative takes the chaos and confusion of the lived experience and makes it understandable.

I think there's another side to this too. I think the writers are telling us events like this are so chaotic that it's impossible to tell 30 years later exactly what happened, and it's almost like the book narration on this episode is there to say "We're pretty sure about what we showed in all of the other episodes, but in this one we're not necessarily showing the truth, we're showing what one book says the truth was."

The UFO is just another side to this. Was it a fanciful thing the author of the book threw in? Was it something Peggy saw, or something in the local rumor mill, and the author just imagined how everyone else might have reacted to it? Or was it something that was REALLY there but the author of the book didn't know about it or how it affected the events?

We'll never know, and that's the point.

(Notice, during the shoot out, which characters are able to ignore the UFO and continue with their plans despite its in-your-face inexplicability? Peggy, who is actualized, and Hanzee, who it seems has been battered into accepting how the forces of the world have structured his life.)

...and Lou, who is just a really good cop and a good soldier, and no matter what crazy stuff happens he knows he needs to do his duty (and survive) anyway.
posted by mmoncur at 3:48 PM on December 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's true that Hanzee went after Peggy, despite the UFO, but not before he stood agape at it with an expression on his face that I'd never seen him make before - certainly not during that dang magic trick!
posted by destructive cactus at 1:44 AM on December 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I know it would have spoiled the shootout, but why didn't Lou turn on his sirens when he saw the Gerhardts approaching the hotel to warn the cops inside after he didn't reach them by radio? They wouldn't have known it was him, but they probably would have been alarmed.
posted by KMB at 3:25 AM on December 10, 2015


He was miles away from the motel and didn't know where it was. We see him driving and trying to locate the hotel for a while, and he doesn't find it until the shooting starts.
posted by maxsparber at 5:14 AM on December 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


You're close: It's Arthur Dent from the movie.

Which was also, I take it, Martin Freeman. I've done my best to forget the Hitchhiker's Guide movie and Sherlock entirely and I didn't care much for Fargo Season 1 so I guess I'm just not a Martin Freeman fan. I even forgot his name.
posted by juiceCake at 9:51 AM on December 10, 2015


His name is Bilbo.
posted by maxsparber at 9:59 AM on December 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


'Tim from The Office'
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:13 AM on December 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


I wanted to float the "UFO as viewer/audience stand-in" hypothesis quite near the beginning of the season, but held off lest it was a too-tidy explanation. What a fantastic season.
posted by Xavier Xavier at 11:19 AM on December 10, 2015


The use of the book as a framing device also feels inspired by The Man Who Wasn't There. It's possible to see the whole of that movie as semi-fictionalized along the tropes of 1950s men's adventure magazines, and I think it is now possible to read this as semi-fictionalized based in 1970s tropes. The UFO scene at the massacre felt lifted directly from Project UFO.
posted by maxsparber at 11:28 AM on December 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am interested to see if Hanzee losing 2 hours and Hank's collection of alien writing/cattle brands are tied up.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:31 PM on December 10, 2015


The split screen with Mike and the telephone booth can be seen two ways. It might be showing a flashback to a minute ago at the same time as the present time to contrast them. Or it might be showing two different timelines on screen at once, both starting with him slamming down the phone and then diverging to show two different mental states Mike could have. I saw it the latter way, and then everything else Mike does in the episode works as part of either timeline. But it's an unknown unknown kind of thing, that scene. That plays into the whole question of whether this book is a reliable narrator of this episode.
posted by joeyh at 3:06 PM on December 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I read that one the same as codacorolla: a way of simultaneously, and concisely, showing his concerned inner state and his breezy mask.

A lot of the split screens have show the same action both from different angles and from slightly offset times. One similar that I remember recently was Bear returning to his truck after killing Simone: half the screen is his approach, half him pausing at the truck door glaring at his cast. It lends the visual narration a strange slightly-adrift-in-time feel.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 4:31 PM on December 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


I was disappointed that the text gets a little incoherent in Brixby's True Crime... if you freeze frame and try to read it.

The flying saucer was annoying. It didn't blow up anything! Or abduct anybody! No cow mutilations, no rayguns, no alien autopsy, no coverup conspiracy! And not to mention, it didn't lead them west on a road trip to Devil's Tower in Wyoming!
posted by Monochrome at 11:32 PM on April 29, 2017


I still love how batshit audacious the UFO scene was. It's the moment I remember the most strongly from this season; as the new season started approaching I often found myself thinking "hey, remember the UFO last season?" and grinning.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:54 PM on April 29, 2017 [2 favorites]


One thing that really stuck out to me in this episode was that Hanzee uses a more modern military gun, while the rest of the Gerhardt gang uses traditional shotguns and rifles. Hanzee is part of the wave of the future.
posted by drezdn at 9:01 AM on November 28, 2017


Friendo.
Stuck out at me. The references to Coen Bros are solid but kind of unnecessary, really. The story-telling is so good, the references add but aren’t so so necessary.
The UFO was a shocking and glorious bit - it changes nothing yet colors everything. What should have been a momentous event in the lives of all of them becomes just, oh yeah and that. Impressive.
posted by From Bklyn at 7:34 AM on February 25, 2018


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